The former European Commission (EC) president sparked fury when he took up a role with US bank Goldman Sachs in early July, the latest case in Brussels’ long-running ‘revolving doors’ saga, where senior EU staff move into the private sector and vice-versa.
Critics say it means former EU employees can tell business how to lobby Brussels to get the legislative changes they want.
The controversy surrounding Barroso – in particular its timing, just days after the UK’s vote to quit the Brussels club – prompted an ‘anonymous group of EU employees’ to launch a petition, demanding ‘exemplary measures’ to be taken against the Portuguese.
The group say – in their introduction to the petition under the heading ‘Not in our name’ – that Barroso’s appointment came at the worst possible moment and was a ‘gift horse’ for Europhobes.
They claim the move is another example of ‘irresponsible revolving door practices’ that are ‘highly-damaging to the EU institutions’.
“It is irresponsible because it feeds into a political context which is not only Eurosceptic but now even openly Europhobic,” they wrote.
“It is morally reprehensible, in that it runs counter to the honour and probity of a European civil service supposed to defend the general European interest.”
They have called for EU chiefs to look into whether Barroso has ‘respected his duties of integrity and discretion towards the European Union’.
Has Barroso done anything illegal?
Even his harshest critics say he has not broken the law.
The rules governing Barroso, and other European Commissioners, prevent them from taking up a post in the private sector within 18 months of leaving the EC, unless it is approved by an ethics committee.
However, after 18 months, they are able to move freely.
Barroso left the EC in October 2014 and took up the post with Goldman Sachs in July 2016, two months after the expiry of these restrictions.
Critics however argue that he has not acted in the spirit of Treaty Article 245 which says Commission staff ‘both during and after their term of office’ should ‘behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits’.
Does the EU need reform?
Critics of the revolving door syndrome say yes. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has called for stricter rules and independent regulation for senior EU staff.
The NGO also wants the current 18-month limit for taking up a new job to be extended to five years for commission presidents, and three years for commissioners.
The European Commission says its rules are stronger than those of national governments and other international organisations.
The petition will be delivered to senior figures of the EU at the end September. You can view it online, here.
Five examples of the EU’s ‘revolving door’
|Name||Position at European Commission||Employer(s) post-Commission|
|Jose Manuel Barroso||President||Goldman Sachs, European Business Summit, Bilderberg Conferences|
|Neelie Kroes||Commissioner for Digital Agenda||Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Salesforce, Uber|
|Viviane Reding||Commissioner for Justice||Bertelsmann Foundation|
|Maria Damanaki||Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries||The Nature Conservancy|
|Karel De Gucht||Commissioner for Trade||Proximus, Merit Capital NV|
Source: Corporate Europe Observatory